Someone Like Me: A marketing leader finds support during her child’s transition

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My first week at Elastic, I showed up to orientation and sat next to a trans woman with bright blue hair. That evening, at a welcome reception with executives all in casual attire, a male colleague arrived wearing a black skirt and combat boots. It was pretty obvious from Day 1 that Come as YOU Are was not lip service, it was truly part of our source code.

As the years of my Elastic journey progressed, kindness, empathy and understanding for all employees has permeated the culture via emails, corporate policies and conversations. It’s always a pleasure to work in an inclusive and warm environment, but one day I found myself needing some extra understanding and a bit of breathing space.

I consider myself a pretty buttoned-up person. I’m someone with dentist appointments booked six months out and the Christmas cards ordered by October. So you can imagine my surprise when one day I noticed my child had changed their pronouns on Instagram to they/them. This is my only child. My baby. Truth be told, my very best friend in the world.

I asked what this was about. During a year of reflection while studying at home during Covid, and being removed from the social pressures of high school, they realized they were nonbinary trans. Also, could they please change their name to something more gender neutral?

A veritable tsunami of emotions followed. First was confusion. (What is nonbinary?) Followed by intense fear. (Trans?!? Is someone going to bully my kid? Or worse??) Then came the self-criticism. (How could this have evolved right under my nose in my own house and I never saw it coming? Am I the worst parent ever?) And finally, the mourning. I was both surprised and guilt-ridden to feel mourning due to a deep sense of loss that came when I had to stop using the name I’d chosen for my child 16 years ago and switch to a new one. There was so much I had to learn and adjust to. I felt like I was out sailing in a dinghy, during a hurricane, when I swore I had checked the weather and it was supposed to be nothing but clear skies for the foreseeable future.
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The learning and navigation of emotions all had to happen behind-the-scenes because for a trans child, when they finally get to where they should have been all along, it is euphoric. For the first time they have a name that fits and is music to their ears! They love the freedom to dress in a way that feels authentic! They are so happy. And when their name is legally changed they are relieved to go back to school knowing that no teacher can ever use the old one (something that can feel like a taser shock when they hear it). All the gender non-conforming clues from their childhood finally made sense and despite my own adjustments, watching my teen evolve into their confident and true self has been truly beautiful. Much like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

During my many months of behind-the-scenes learning, legal paperwork, uber-parenting, mourning the loss of a name, and an overall life-changing experience, I was nothing short of distracted at work. One night, a dinner table conversation took priority and I was so engrossed in listening and talking to my child that I completely forgot my APAC colleagues were waiting for me on a Zoom call. It was then that I realized I’d better let my manager (Elastic’s CMO) and my immediate teammates know I wasn’t bringing my A-game to work. I simply needed to catch up at home. Space, Time and Home, Dinner are two of our other source codes at Elastic, and I will be forever thankful that taking time for my family was a non-issue. I’ve missed a few meetings along the way and continue to do so to attend Transfamilies.org events, but I’ve been greeted with nothing but kindness, support and permission to do what I need for my family above all else.

This will be the first time I’ve written publicly about having a nonbinary trans teen. It’s so scary that I declined to share our names on the internet (although I have no issue with any Elastician knowing who I am). Some days I wonder if those passing scrutiny and judgment in our public forums realize that trans kids are real kids with real feelings. They have parents who love them and want them to grow up happy, accepted, and with the freedom to live authentically just like any parent wants for their children.

My hope is that anyone who reads this will know that joining Elastic means you are joining a place that will support both you and your family. After all, your family is ultimately an extension of your very heart and soul.

Please, come as YOU are.

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